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Give Your Customers What They Want before They Get it Somewhere Else

March 28, 2017

By Duncan Hendy, Content Strategy Manager, Kentico Software

In the digital age, people are increasingly aware of what they want and how they want to consume it. If a business is not offering content online that is both relevant and interesting, they will face significant challenges in converting visitors to customers. Personalization is key to earning the respect and trust of online visitors. Businesses that only offer static content, which fails to take into consideration who they are as individuals based on location, demographics, site history and interests, risk losing potential customers forever. However, those businesses that adopt a dynamic online approach that provides visitors with a truly immersive experience can engage with these potential customers on their level. And it is their level that really interests them.

One of the key benefits of personalizing a visitor’s online experience is that it will lead to increased website conversions and on-page time, which also helps with a business’ all-important Google ranking. Through this increased activity, Google gets a better understanding of the type of content your business is delivering, which will help increase organic traffic. Additionally, when visitors reach a website and discover that there is new, tailored content available, they are more likely to return, generating even more traffic.

“Performing a content gap analysis is as important as refining the content a website already has”

Delivering personalized, dy­namic content across all digital channels, not just the website, means that a business is keeping visitors on its pages longer, which in turn increases their conversion rate. It doesn’t matter what sector a business operates within, speaking to their audience on their level and with their interests in mind makes content more attractive and credible.

I Think We Need a Better Strategy 

In order for a business to have a valid strategy for personalized online content, it must consider content mapping. Establishing a visual guide to every stage of the visitor’s digital journey,including how they are accessing the website and then moving through it, will help build a clear visual guide. From this research, a business can understand visitor habits as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their online content. Are there any areas where there is something lacking that is causing a digital communication breakdown?

Performing a content gap analysis is also as important as refining the content a website already has. Filling in these gaps will make the visitor’s transition through the website smoother and more engaging. Businesses need to think from the point of view of their visitors to see where personalization would be most effective on their website so that they are maximising the consumers’ online experience.

While undertaking research to gain a clearer picture of the content, a consumer is interacting with is hugely beneficial, many businesses struggle to put this data into effect. It is not enough for a business to carry out a content audit, they must also have the right systems and technology to deliver it. It is critical that businesses have a CMS that can combine its visitors’ interactions in order to build a clear profile to ensure that their personalized content is delivered to the right person at the right time.

If a visitor responds to an email content item, favours one section of your website, has a purchase history or has completed an online form, businesses need to be sure that this information is being gathered and processed efficiently. Not delivering a consistent experience means a visitor might leave when shown content that has nothing to do with who they are and what their interests are.

This Is the Content You Are Looking For 

While personalized content should be the key pillar of any business’ digital strategy, there are other considerations that need to be factored in. Like making the navigation intuitive and attractive through a website by organizing the site based on its relevance to the visitor. The shorter the path to the content they need, the better it is. This means businesses need to think about how consumers can discover content through the website’s menu, the CTAs that are present on pages, the ease of the check-out process or how the search function works. And do not forget the content itself. Writing complex text is going to send visitors away. Consumers need text that is clearly aimed at the reader first and that is easy to digest. Overloading visitors with numerous CTAs and too much content will confuse and frustrate them—and could ultimately overshadow any work that has been put into personalizing a website, costing the business potential sales.

Consumers of content also respond positively when they feel there is a sense of community— reviews of products and services, social media share buttons, forums and a blog with the possibility to add comments are especially important. Because, if a consumer wants to talk about a business, and they feel they can connect with other like minded people around a brand to discuss topics and products that are relevant to them, the level of engagement and the way that company is perceived in the community are enhanced. This should be the ultimate goal of creating a personalized online experience for consumers— happy, engaged, customers that become brand advocates in their own right.

Founded in 2004, Kentico Software is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner headquartered in the Czech Republic with offices around the world. Kentico has 1,000 digital solution partners and powers 25,000 websites across 100 countries.

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Headless customers are happy ones. Seriously.

March 28, 2017

Since the launch of the Internet, through the mobile phone boom, and into the current world of smart technology, it has almost become human nature to expect change and for technology to keep up. Such a pace can make one’s head spin...so maybe it's time to go headless.

The future of content

In 1977, Ken Olson, President of Digital Equipment Corporation, claimed, "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." Now, 40 years later, the average US household has 13 connected devices. And to take that one step further, the first iPhone was launched on the US market on June 29, 2007—less than ten years ago. But now, iPhones and smartphones in general are synonymous with modern life and are becoming one of the most go-to channels for modern customers. Any company that wants to be successful with digital marketing must clearly factor this into their customer journeys.

Fast forward to June 29, 2027, and I wonder where we will be. We are already seeing Internet of Things (IoT) devices making their way into households. Shops are increasingly introducing self-service kiosks for browsing and ordering in stores. Virtual Reality is being utilised to give people a chance to experience the product or service before making purchasing decisions. And although Augmented Reality is still very much in its infancy, it has already found fame with the Pokemon Go app, which took 2016 by storm. In ten years' time, or probably much sooner, all of these could be at a level we currently experience with smartphones and wearables. And let's not forget that good-old-fashioned computers, laptops, and phones all continue to improve , too.

But why am I mentioning these devices? Each device serves the purpose of presenting the user with the right information at the right time in the right place. It is about making the customers' lives easier and more convenient to a point where they welcome and appreciate the interactions they have with you, rather than seeing your messages as annoying spam. Imagine you are walking through a city and get a message on your phone to tell you that it is going to start raining in ten minutes and there is a shop two minutes from your location that has a 50% sale on umbrellas. Awesome, right? Well, through a combination of your weather app and location tracking on your phone and some very good and smart marketing by the shop, this is actually possible today.

Event-triggered marketing is not the only awesome opportunity for our newly connected world. Imagine if you want to book a holiday but you are torn between two places. What if you could experience it before you buy it? Virtual Reality goggles can help. Travel agencies are experimenting in certain shops with virtual tours of holiday destinations where customers can see the area, experience the location, and make the right decision before handing over their hard-earned cash. And what about seeing valuable information in your own world? What if you are walking through Tokyo searching for a shop that sells trainers but you don't understand a word of Japanese? Introducing Augmented Reality—a view of your real world that is augmented by computer-generated content or elements. With your phone or AR glasses, you can view your environment not just with real-time translations of the shop names and signs, but even have personalised offers and content sent directly to your device as you walk. I bet you want to add all these things to your marketing activities now, don't you!

Headless CMS in a nutshell

So what is making all this possible? Good question. Headless CMS architecture is now being utilised in a way that was not needed in the past because the number and variety of devices did not exist for this concept to show its full potential.

In the past, a traditional CMS was used alongside a templating engine to render web pages to be displayed on desktops, laptops, and, more recently, on mobile devices and tablets. This template rendering is known as the "head" of the CMS and determines the presentation layout of the content. But with the template approach, you are always taking full web pages and trying to manipulate them to the device on which you want them to appear. With all the new channels and devices that are emerging, this is no longer enough. Trying to force a template to fit different layouts is neither efficient nor elegant and will lead to mixed feelings from customers.

The solution: separate the head from the body. Take the elements of your web page—title, subtitle, description, header image, list items, CTA buttons, and so on—and consider them as modules that can be used to build a new page. Figure out how you want to display them on any given device, and call the API to actually get the content from the CMS. Use the CMS as the content repository and management tool it is designed to be, while web developers concentrate on what they are good at—building applications for the channels you need. It gives you much more freedom to design appropriately for whatever display you choose. And on top of that, these pieces of modular content only need to be written once, and they can then be used on any display and in any layout you want.

All in all, it means that you can deliver the same content in the best layout possible, no matter which device you display it on. It improves the customer journey by making it more consistent and more appealing for the people seeing the content. And we are all aware of the impact an exceptional customer experience can have on your conversion rates, customer loyalty, and overall revenue. More importantly, we are aware of the impact a negative customer experience can have, too.

Customers won't see it but they'll love it

What‘s the key to a great customer experience? Enriching their lives without inconveniencing them. Add something awesome without them ever having to wonder how it worked. And, most of all, make sure the experience is an ongoing, lasting and consistent one.

The headless architecture is the means through which you can deliver this experience. By providing the right content in a consistent manner at the right time and in the right place, you make sure that the customer experience is a memorable one. That level of consistency also has a big impact on brand recognition and loyalty. People will no longer see mixed messages and will, therefore, recognise your brand more readily. And a recognisable brand is one that breeds loyalty.

Give people what they want when they need it, and they are going to love you for it. Take your brand into the headless world – it will blow your customers’ minds.

Original article by Stephen Griffin, Product Marketing Manager at Kentico Software

 

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Don't Look Now, but AI is Closing in on You

March 27, 2017

By  

The good news is we live in a world where there is incredible depth of content.  

We have more publications, websites, television and radio networks, blogs and quite frankly more ways to communicate than ever before. Today, thousands of companies and millions of people are creating fresh content for people to consume on their computers, tablets, smart phones, smart TVs and other devices. 

Now for the bad news: If you happen to be one of those content creators, artificial intelligence (AI) is going to increasingly take over that task.

AI Moves Into the Content Market

This is great news for companies that produce content. As AI comes online, those companies will get more and more content at less and less cost. 

But can AI really replace the creative spark that only humans possess? Will AI be able to generate humor, create nuances and other subtleties, generate headlines and callouts people can’t ignore? 

We’ll find out soon because that day is fast approaching.

In the digital world, there’s a lot to be said in favor of AI. AI helps perform more tasks, solve more problems and create smarter solutions. 

Although AI has not yet cornered the content market, it is already making it easier for the content managers to use predictive capabilities to create digital content in a collaborative environment. 

And there’s more to come. AI can provide solutions under the cover of another platform or system, or it can be a bot collecting and categorizing data. Some speculate this widespread use of AI will give web content management a new life, making content much more intense, useful and richer.

AI's Far-Reaching Impact

More Content Generated by Less People

The promise of AI comes with a parallel fear that the dynamic changes it brings will eliminate and replace jobs in many advanced work settings. 

AI-based intelligent or smart machines already have infiltrated our day to day existence. We live in a world of self-driving cars, self-flying drones, smart sensors to monitor data, virtual butlers and smart machines running households, with much more to come. 

However, we are in the early days of applying AI to content management.

Man Versus Machine, Mano a Mano

In the future, you can expect man to come face to face with machines on a more regular basis. Just look at what’s already happening: A robot can create music and collaborate with other musicians with utterly imaginative and ingenious results. In one Japanese company, an AI robot just became a member of board of directors. 

The idea of humans working side by side and collaborating with AI robots is no longer the stuff of science fiction. It will happen in our lifetime.

I Like Siri, Cortana, Now, and Echo but...

Intelligent voice assistants like Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo are the first wave of replacing what was previously human interaction. 

We now talk to AI-powered robots. Companies are transforming traditional question-answer AI models to give output based on a wider semantic level of understanding. The collaboration between the knowledge base and reasoning engine are set to perfect the conversational AIs. 

And it's only a matter of time before AIs talk to each other, offering and receiving help and assistance.

Searching is another digital interaction impacted significantly by AI. RankBrain is an AI system to which millions of queries are directed by Google. This AI system processes and interprets the terms or queries. Its mission is to learn about the semantics of Google Search in order to improve itself and deliver more accurate answers.

So, Tell Me More about AI and Content Generation

Content generation is already taking place using AI tools. Just look at how the Associated Press uses the Wordsmith platform from Automated Insights to generate its corporate earnings reports. 

Much of the news you read today isn't even written by humans. The number of automatically generated stories far outnumbers the human-created ones. AI algorithms are likely to outperform humans soon and therefore lower the content management costs for companies.

What About the Human Factor? What Keeps Us Ahead of Machines?

Although AI-generated content saves companies time and money, it doesn’t deliver a consistent audience. At least, not yet. 

The computer may pick up information, but it can’t perform critical thinking and thus can’t provide the human touch to create a unique idea. AI tools can solve problems, using natural language and analyzing complicated data. Consumers require a human interpretation before they believe everything they read. 

Creative thinking, sense of humor, real stories and humanity make content more real for people, which is one of the last remaining differentiators between man and machine.

What Makes AI So Attractive and Useful?

AI is more practical than Human Intelligence for certain issues. AI solutions understand past consumer behavior and can analyze the data to provide faster and practical solutions to consumer's concerns at a speed and accuracy level that people cannot. 

For example, AI is stealing the show by acting as "website doctors." These AI site doctors identify dead pages that fail to generate any traffic. They also identify pages that have been flagged for containing broken links or pages with incorrectly displayed images or videos. 

Soon these AI tools will move beyond pointing out issues to making proactive recommendations for supporting governance and good practice. You will get recommendations for page layouts, sizes and convertibility. 

And when it comes to content optimization, AI tools bring faster results to A/B testing by simultaneously testing different permutations of components and page variants. You can now mix several tests at a time while monitoring traffic and leave the analysis and results to AI.

Preparing Your Business for What's to Come

Organizations are constantly on the lookout for ways to do things faster and with less people. And that means we can expect even more examples of AI in the workplace. 

AI algorithms can churn piles of information and release output to recognize patterns and categories in data. AI can sort through mountains of business data, pinpoint patterns and identify critical trends. 

So yes, AI can improve efficiency, boost control of information and result in significant savings in time and cost. It will be up individual companies, however, to strike the right balance between man and machine.

Content managers and technologists can take a few preventative steps to stay relevant in this era of AI-generated content. 

Creating reusable content, building meaningful semantic HTML, paying attention to metadata and semantics to improve content's usefulness: these are just a few of the steps that will prepare your organization's content for artificial intelligence.

Think about input and output. AI is about engineering, hence it requires intense collaboration between content specialists, designers and technologists. Build in affordability, as it will prevent disasters.

And above all, remember to think outside the box. AI opens up possibilities we haven't yet explored, so keep playing and experimenting.

About the Author

Karol Jarkovsky is Director of Product at Kentico Software, a CMS, online marketing, eCommerce, and cloud software company with offices in Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific. A graduate of the Brno University of Technology, he has been working in product management, global software development, and customer success for more than a decade.

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Software firm to provide clean water to village in India

March 22, 2017

BEDFORD — Kentico Software, a company headquartered in the Czech Republic with an office in Bedford, is teaming up to provide clean water to an Indian village. 

Kentico Software powers 25,000 websites across dozens of countries, and is now donating web design software for Planet Water Foundation, and helping the nonprofit organization install a public water filtration system in Palla, India, as part of World Water Day on Wednesday. 

In an effort to increase awareness of the global water crisis, Planet Water Foundation’s Project 24 will install 24 clean water filtration systems known as AquaTowers in 24 communities across five countries — in one day. 

Kentico Software, teaming up with Raybiztech, is one of several companies helping with Project 24. Each AquaTower project costs about $15,000 to deploy to villages in Cambodia, Colombia, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. 

“Kentico is very eco-friendly and eco-conscious. This particular project made sense,” said Eric Webb, Kentico’s vice president of sales for North America. 

Webb, who opened Kentico’s Bedford office in 2015, said the local facility employs about 35 workers. The Bedford location includes a sales department, public relations and marketing department, consulting division and technical support department. 

“We pretty much operate independently from the corporate office in the Czech Republic,” said Webb, adding all of the company’s development of software is maintained at its headquarters. 

Listed as one of Business NH Magazine’s fastest growing companies a few years back, Webb said Kentico continues to expand. 

“We are finding a lot of success here. We are continually growing,” he said. “We have seen an average of 25 to 30 percent growth year-over-year for the past five years.” 

With about 8,000 clients worldwide, roughly 70 percent of the company’s revenue is out of North America, according to Webb. 

“It’s one thing to bring business software into the world, but it is something altogether different to bring fresh drinking water to a village of several thousand people for the very first time,” Petr Palas, Kentico’s founder and CEO, said in a statement. “Kentico is honored to be associated with a project of such humane intent.” 

Ajay Ray, managing director of Raybiztech, a solutions partner with Kentico, said his company is delighted to join hands with Kentico to contribute toward World Water Day. “Now, clean drinking water will be available in many backward villages in India,” Ray said in a statement.

According to Mark Steele, founder and CEO of Planet Water Foundation, AquaTowers solves many problems for disadvantaged communities in parts of the world where water supply is not the issue, but rather water contamination that makes people sick. 

“One of our larger goals with Project 24 is to offer greater visibility into different types of water quality issues that we collectively work to mitigate,” Steele said in a release, thanking companies like Kentico for assisting in the initiative and being committed to corporate and social responsibility around water and hygiene education efforts. 

khoughton@newstote.com

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Come forth the headless horseman of CMS

March 20, 2017

Well known in folklore across Europe and the US, the headless horseman is set to be brought back by the CMS industry in the form of the headless CMS.

A recent rise in the need for higher scalability and agility has led people to start looking at deploying their CMS to the cloud.

Additionally, with the multitude of devices and platforms currently available and requiring content, the headless architecture – rather than a sign of impending doom, is being viewed as the modern answer to these problems.

The future is a multichannel world

Most marketers these days are using some form of traditional CMS. Displaying content on websites and utilizing analytics tools to gather information about visitors are very common scenarios and perfectly fine, for the most part.

But a traditional CMS might not be able to cope with what is to come in the near future.

A 2016 report by Deloitte shows that almost two-thirds of UK adults have access to a tablet, while smartphone penetration hit 81% of the population – with 31% of smartphone users saying they didn’t make voice calls in a given week.

Add to these items the advancements in bots, digital assistants, virtual reality, augmented reality, IoT, and more, and you begin to see that merely creating content for websites, whether through responsive design or not, is no longer enough.

If a marketer really wants to have an influence on a user’s customer journey, they need to start interacting with the user across all channels. Marketing requires a more flexible approach to its content delivery and needs to be structured in a way that allows for multiple delivery layouts.

Stop thinking of a “web page” and start thinking of the elements on the page, such as title, subtitle, description, images, right through to pricing, checkboxes, CTA buttons, and so on, which can be displayed on any device in any layout.

These are all important elements in the customer journey and with the headless approach you are assured that they can be displayed for your customers anywhere and everywhere.

Off with its head

As the digital market has been maturing, we have seen web pages get bigger, faster, and more elegant and user friendly. And throughout all of that, a traditional CMS was used in conjunction with a templating engine to render the pages. This is the “head” of the CMS and determines the presentation layout of the content.

It stands to reason that for more device types and more displays, all we need are more templates, right? Wrong.

Just as it would have been impossible to predict the widespread adoption of the mobile devices we are currently seeing, it is just as impossible to anticipate what might come in the next 20 years. Adding more engines and more layers will just create an uncontrollable beast.

The solution is simple: separate the head from the body. In other words, let the CMS do what it is designed to do—be the content repository and management tool for the content you write—and let your team of developers just concentrate on what they are good at—building the applications for the channels you need.

Then, instead of the CMS rendering the content, you simply call its API to retrieve the content and it then fits to whatever application layout has been determined for the display.

Think of all the elements mentioned earlier, such as title, description, and so on, as individual modules. Take each module and figure out how you want it displayed. So you no longer take an entire web page and try to manipulate it to the device, but rather take the individual modularized content elements and piece them together for the device you want.

And, on top of that, those pieces of modular content only need to be written once and they can then be used on any display and in any layout you want.

Traditional CMS tries to move to the cloud

Many people in the CMS industry can already see the advantages of cloud deployments. But there are a lot of different approaches being taken.

There has been an increase in the number of traditional CMS providers that have taken their platform and dropped it in the cloud. Sure, it removes the on-premise server infrastructure, but your development teams will still need to take care of the installation, maintenance, upgrades, and everything that normally goes along with an on-premise CMS.

A solution to that might be to use a managed hosting service. In this scenario, your CMS is hosted in the cloud and the vendor manages your installation. Sounds great!

But the key here is that the vendor needs to manage each installation on its own. If there are upgrades to be done, they need to do it for each installation. It is effectively just moving the inefficiencies away from your developers to the vendor. Doesn’t sound so great now, does it?

What you really need is a model that has automated CMS maintenance like the Platform as a Service (PaaS) model. In this model, a traditional CMS platform is reworked in the cloud so that all upgrades and maintenance are automatically applied to all installations at the same time.

However, because most traditional CMSs were designed with on-premise hosting environments in mind, doing it this way soon leads to problems as some functionality starts to fail. For example:

Some of the plugins that you use, for instance, for analytics, or email marketing, may not work in the cloud environment.

Certain customization options that your development team have implemented might only work in an on-premise model. When the vendor makes updates to the platform in the cloud, your customizations might get damaged, as the CMS was not designed with this in mind.

After every upgrade and hotfix, your team will still need to spend time ensuring everything is working correctly before being able to get back to their day-to-day work.

This all means that PaaS is still not the most elegant or efficient solution. And, for marketers and developers that need to be on top of their game, that will make a big difference.

The solution is a CMS designed from the ground up to work in the cloud—a cloud-first CMS. Combine that with headless architecture, and you will feel like you’re back in control of your CMS.

Time to lose your head in the cloud

In a fast-paced, multi-channel world that requires immediate results and increased ROI and revenue, as well as the desire to deliver the “perfect” customer journey, a cloud-first headless CMS is the guiding light for marketers.

With a modularized content approach in this architecture, you only need to create content once and it can be displayed on multiple devices—vastly increasing the speed and efficiency of your content production. Typically, larger projects can be cut from months to weeks.

This agility also means that marketers have ultimate control over the channels in which they want to advertise. No longer will you be restricted by trying to fit a certain page template to a new and different device.

And just imagine how much easier life will be when you don’t need to worry about all the upgrades, maintenance, and hotfixes of a traditional CMS. With a cloud-first headless CMS, the vendor takes care of all of the headaches, meaning your budget and resources can be spent on more important things.

Many major vendors are already working on developing cloud-first headless CMSs, while the pioneers are already out there in the marketplace available for purchase today. So while the industry might be taking a headless approach, early adopters have certainly got their heads screwed on.\

Stephen Griffin is Product Marketing Manager at Kentico.

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Ad blocking: a threat or opportunity for retailers?

March 14, 2017

By: Duncan Hendy 

In 2015 alone, it was estimated that $21.8 billion was lost in advertising revenue due to ad blocking technology. As the popularity of apps that actively reduce the visibility of advertising people see online grows, what does the future hold for retailers across Australia wishing to grow brand awareness and reach new customers?

To answer this question, it is necessary to look at the reason for the existence of ad block technology in the first place. It’s no secret that advertising brings money. However, over the last decade, a large number of websites began overloading their pages with advertising. This means that the online ad world has become noisy, intrusive and rather irritating. It is like going to the cinema and seeing advertising slots as long as the film itself that occur intermittently, disrupting the film with unrelated content.

This means retail marketers across Australia are going to have to rethink their advertising strategy. Instead of being part of the unwelcome noise, advertising today should be about re-establishing contact with a retailer’s target audience. People are far less likely to object to seeing adverts if they are relevant to them or their lifestyle. What they don’t appreciate is content they can’t or don’t want to relate to—for instance, promotions for a new season of European-inspired business wear (with a high price point) appearing on a youth-orientated pop culture website.

In order to reach potential customers in today’s increasingly fragmented digital environment, retailers need to think about how they make their content meaningful, personalised and relevant from the outset. That means gaining in-depth insights into customers, including the brands they love, the places they go, even the sports team they support—it’s all relevant. Retailers need to begin their approach by asking: “Where do I get information about customers that I can use to personalise their experience and use as an input to my digital strategy?”

The advent of ad blocking technology should not be feared by local retailers; it actually presents real opportunities for savvy industry professionals who know how to leverage data to stand out from the crowd. Because, if everything else is blocked and only they are getting through, their store is going to get more visibility.

Breaking it down

Segmentation is vital to properly understand your customer base. Unfortunately, many retail marketers still segment by age, gender, income, etc.—demographic data that isn’t relevant anymore. It doesn’t matter if people are 16 or 65, they may still like the same Facebook pages. Retailers need to rethink how they segment their audience. They need to think about what data they are using to identify if a certain person falls into a segment or not. They cannot rely on a single source for data anymore.

It is important to remember that many ad blockers are commercially driven and have their own business model. Not all of the solutions on the market are on a moral crusade to protect consumers from unwelcome content. In fact, many ad blockers offer a whitelisting service that means if a retailer pays enough money, the ad blocker will let their ad get through.

Speak to me

Australian retailers should not automatically be afraid of ad blocking. If they provide content that the audience wants to consume, then the audience is far less likely to block them. It’s also important to remember that online advertising is not the only way to get content to a relevant audience.

A huge trend, especially with generation Z, is using messenger apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Retail brands can reach out to their audiences through these apps. Normally the app asks when someone is creating their account what their hobbies etc. are. Based on this, the user agrees to receive third-party ads as long as they are relevant to them based on the criteria they have specified. These ads do not have to be in the form of a banner.

For example, when a user is chatting with their friend about a shirt they saw on the high street, a brand can use artificial intelligence to send a message telling the customer that a similar item is on sale in a certain online store. The bot is adding something that is relevant to both the user and the chat. The bot recommends a product not only based on what it knows about the user from their social profile but also based on the context of the discussion they are having at that precise moment in time.

Build a community, not just a brand

In order to engage with customers today, it is no longer enough to promote or build a brand; rather, retailers should be focusing on how they can build their own online community. People respond positively when they feel there is a sense of community around a brand online. Reviews of products and services, social media share buttons, forums, and a blog with the possibility to add comments are especially important. And to deliver these services, retailers need to have the right online marketing platform in place that actively supports their digital community.

If a consumer wants to talk about a business, and they feel they can connect with other like-minded people around a brand to discuss topics and products that are relevant to them, the level of engagement and the way that company is perceived in the community are enhanced. This should be the ultimate goal of creating a personalised online experience for consumers—happy, engaged customers who become brand advocates in their own right. And there is no ad blocker in the world today that can filter out that.

It’s time to get creative

Whatever the general opinion on ad blocking is, the positive outcome is that it is forcing retailers to rethink the way they approach their content. It is no longer sensible to bombard audiences with irrelevant ads that, rather than engage, actively dissuade a potential customer from connecting with a brand.

To outsmart the ad blockers, retailers must communicate to their potential customers on a wavelength that connects with them on a personal level. After all, if advertising is smart and engaging, people will welcome it more. And if that means retailers are more creative in the way they tell their stories, that in itself has to be a good thing.

Duncan Hendy is the content strategy manager at Kentico Software.

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